The success of a small business venture is never guaranteed. In fact, it often takes thick skin and undying commitment to start a business in any economic climate. But starting up during a still-slugging local economy takes fearlessness.
Ryann DiBenedetto, 23, never worried she couldn't pull off a successful business when her grandmother, Barbara Brotschul, approached her two years ago about opening a hair salon in Spring Hill. Living in Chicago at the time, the native Spring Hill adventure-seeker jumped at the opportunity and boarded a plane back to Hernando County.
She has never looked back.
Salon Halo has been building clientele since, competing with several local shops by offering a unique niche to styling and makeup with a foundation that focuses on creativity and committed customer care.
"Most of the people who come here are interested in completely revamping their image," DiBenedetto said. Salon Halo is nontraditional in the sense that it focuses on the trendy, nontypical styles that might be difficult to achieve elsewhere. She has attracted a healthy number of new clients who couldn't get what they wanted from other salons.
DiBenedetto wasn't worried about making it in Spring Hill where a dozen other top salons exist. There is plenty of work for everyone, she said. "I even send clients to other shops if what they want isn't our specialty." Her bottom line is keeping customers happy even if it means referring them when necessary.
Salon Halo is a Paul Mitchell Focused Salon, meaning they follow certain skill-sets developed by the nationally recognized system. And they sell Paul Mitchell products, which is what DiBenedetto and her dynamic and highly skilled staff recommend.
It helped that this over-achieving entrepreneur already had a strong foundation not only in business but also in hair care. DiBenedetto studied at Paul Mitchell School of Hair Design, the leading institute of higher learning in the industry. She was only 16 when she started.
After building a strong foundation in hair, specializing in color, DiBenedetto decided to fulfill her need for adventure and moved to Chicago with an uncle. Though settling into a much different landscape, the call from her grandmother changed her journey completely.
"I was jotting down notes on the plane," DiBenedetto remembered.
The shop was already equipped for a salon when the purchase was completed. They added their own personal vision, painting the walls in retro gray and creating contrasts by offsetting the deep hues with colorful artwork. "We worked with what we had," DiBenedetto said.
The décor works, mimicking the kind of chic style of a salon in New York or Chicago, perhaps. And it seems to follow the perky team DiBenedetto built, all young stylists who have a similar commitment and drive.
Steven Schepper, 25, wasn't looking to work in a hair salon, he said. But he and DiBenedetto had been friends for some time. DiBenedetto's suggestion that Schepper join the team was a solid business decision since his professional and friendly demeanor fits right in with the atmosphere of the shop. Schepper greets the customers at the door, schedules appointments, answers the phone and brings customers complimentary coffee, tea or wine.
Actually, Salon Halo does practically everything, including the newest celebrity trend, "Ombres." Kera Simon of Spring Hill was in the salon getting her first Ombre, a coloring technique that blends one color, usually darker at the top, to lighter at the bottom. "I've wanted it for awhile," she said.
Before discovering Salon Halo, Simon was driving to Tampa to get her hair done. "This is a lot better," she said.
Samantha Neopoliani, a local photographer, has known DiBenedetto for years. "I first met her at another shop," Napoliani said. "She told me I should get highlights and we exchanged numbers. When I was ready, I called her and discovered she had her own shop."
Neopoliani is loyal to DiBenedetto, following her for years as DiBenedetto changed salons before opening her own. Even when DiBenedetto moved to Chicago, Neopoliani would wait until she returned on visits to have her hair done.
The two share a similar philosophy, Neopolian said. Both run their businesses with a deep respect and commitment to their clients. "She's so fresh and fun," Napolian said. "She knows what she wants and is so educated on her product."
Salon Halo does complete styling, color, and makeup with four fulltime stylists. The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
DiBenedetto is only beginning to mold her dreams and has already achieved more than some might realize in a lifetime. Her plans to broaden the scope of her salon are already in process. "There is a lot I still want to do," she said.
For now, they salon focuses on meeting the unique needs of their customers.
Schepper remembered a customer who came to the shop in tears. She wanted them to fix her botched style. "And when she left she was in tears because she loved what we did for her," he said.
"That's what we do here," DiBenedetto added. "We give the customer what they want."